Former coach, Huron star player dies at 44

Rich Wennes was in a great place in July 2001. He had a supportive family, two lovely children, a good job with Sandusky Schools, and he had just been named varsity boys basketball coach.
Dan Angelo
Dec 3, 2013
Before the calendar turned to August, his life would change dramatically.

His severe headaches were diagnosed as a brain cancer, eventually leading to a series of surgeries and, ultimately, a 12-year struggle that came to an end on Thanksgiving evening at Stein Hospice.

“He was just a straight arrow,” said his father, Dick Wennes, who taught and coached football and girls basketball at Huron Schools for decades. “He was a good athlete and a good man, and he loved Huron” Rich, 44, was all about sports. He was the youngest owner of stock in the Cleveland Cavaliers — his grandfather bought him five shares in his name in 1970, when he was just an infant.

Click HERE to read the obituary for Rich Wennes

He was an avid fan of Cleveland sports and Ohio State University sports, but an even bigger fan of Huron athletics. He’dsometimes give his father an earful, all in good fun, if he caught him wearing Perkins Pirates gear, even though his brother-in-law was Perkins Pirates football coach Jason Ziegler.

His love for his hometown was repaid the week before he died. His brother, Rhett, recorded the Huron football team singing the school’s fight song in his honor, after a practice where the Tigers prepared for their Division V regional championship game against Coldwater.

“We all had our cell phones out, playing it for him,” Dick said. “They say he knew what was being played”

The importance of the moment wasn’t lost on the players.

“We try to keep our kids in touch with the past and to know the history of the men who were part of the program,” Huron football coach Tony Legando said. “The kids sang it the way it should be sung”

Rich was a football and basketball star at Huron Schools. He went on to play football at the U.S. Air Force Preparatory School, leaving after a year and receiving an honorable discharge.    

He then attended Bowling Green State University, where he played football as a walk-on receiver. He earned his bachelor’s degree in education in 1992, then his master’s degree in education from Ashland University in 1998.

He taught social studies and coached football and basketball at Edison High from 1994-98, joining the Sandusky High staff in 1999 as a teacher and a varsity assistant to Blue Streaks boys basketball coach Ed Kurt.

“Rich was just a great guy,” said Kurt, now superintendent at Margaretta Schools. “He cared a lot about kids. He cared a lot about educating kids and coaching kids.

“The big benefit I got from bringing him on my staff was he was a young man who grew up as a coach’s kid,” Kurt said. “That’s something that is priceless, because they understand the dedication and devotion it takes”

Rich replaced Kurt as varsity coach when Kurt accepted a position as principal at Perkins Schools.

“Rich’s character and integrity made him a natural fit for the job,” said Denny Muratori, the athletic director who hired Rich as varsity basketball coach at Sandusky. Muratori is now superintendent of Huron Schools. “He had a familiarity with our students and program and a desire to work with and mentor the students of Sandusky High School. We thought he was the natural choice”

Rich’s head coaching career lasted just one year, going 13-10 with a Division I sectional championship. His illness led to a surgery in Sandusky and three more at Duke University, and it eventually forced him to step down after that season.

“Rich was a very physically fit person,” Kurt said. “I know he fought this with every ounce of his being. But this illness is just terrible. When you put things into perspective, if you run a basketball program, you want it to be successful and you want to win. But if you don’t have your health, it doesn’t matter much”

Services are set for 11 a.m. today at Grace Episcopal Church, 315 Wayne St. in Sandusky. Memorial donations can be directed to the Kailee and Drew Wennes Trust Fund, Citizens Banking Co., 100 E. Water St., Sandusky, or to Stein Hospice Services, 1200 Sycamore Line, Sandusky.

“The family is a wonderful family, and Rich was such a nice guy,” said Steve Keller Jr., who was part of the Sandusky boys basketball staff with Rich. Keller is currently head basketball coach at Margaretta Schools. “He handled the whole situation with such dignity and integrity. Rich cared about the student and the student-athlete, and he was willing to put in the time it took”

Comments

donutshopguy

A lesson to be learned.

Life is short. You have no control over your time on earth.

Enjoy ever day as it's your last.

Rest in peace young Mr. Wennes.

For the grieving family, be thankful for the wonderful time he was with you.

Raoul Duke

Or maybe you have total control...

local man

The website is a joke! After spending 45 minutes filling out the full application online to get rates, I get a message that they need more information. To this day I still don't have a quote and that was four weeks ago.

The Bizness

Must be because you don't know how to use a website ;)

Thoughts go out to this family, sad but it is a reminder of how precious life is.

ilkyp

what??

whattheBucks

One of the last things I am is a Huron fan ! Life is short, and it looks like God decided that his work here on earth was complete. It sounds like heaven just welcomed a wonderful young man, his pain and suffering has ended, and it sounds like he leaves behind wonderful memories for EVERYONE to cherish ! May God give his family the peace and strength to get through this difficult time. Good or bad everyone is going to be remembered for something, sounds like this young man did it the right way .

Raoul Duke

Who cares what you are a fan of...

whattheBucks

Hey r d , you have two really nice comments on here !! Are you like 12 ? If you want to have a pi$$ing match I would be more then happy to but not on this article

whattheBucks

Hey r d , you have two really nice comments on here !! Are you like 12 ? If you want to have a pi$$ing match I would be more then happy to but not on this article

worddrow811

Thank you, Sandusky Register, for giving this article the front page coverage that it deserves.

Two beloved Huronites, Richie and Ralph Pisano moved over to Heaven on the same day. May we all be so blessed to be in the company of two of Huron's finest, along with Mike and the other people who passed in November, when it's our time to go on that long black trainride into a better place.

Ralph Jr., was waiting for his dad and Richie's grandparents were there waiting to welcome them home. You will be missed, but we know you're going to see your loved ones again and that is a wonderful thing.